Tuesday, 22 May 2012

You think plugging a ponytail into an animal is cool?

I watched James Cameron's Avatar movie the other day - it's pretty good, everyone agrees, full of big blue nobly savage people fighting the greedy little pinkskins who killed their own mother, and are now coming after the blue folks' mum. I had three major thoughts as the credits rolled, other than how much cooler Stephen Lang was in Terra Nova.

Firstly, that plugging their hair into animals was so tangible, so...real!

Secondly, how cool would it be if we could do something so tangible in our own attitudes and relationship with ecology?

Annnd third, the real onion, is why they put this in there. There are several possible reasons and all of them are disturbing and annoying. What are people going to think about why we can't? How is skipping symbolism and throwing a tangible middle finger in people's faces going to encourage them *not* to 'kill our mother...' and for that matter we are not even killing the Earth! We're ruining our ability to live on it, sure, but she was here long before we came, and will recover and endure long after we go.

Screw Avatar. Anaesthetic mass-marketed disillusioning lie.

You think plugging a ponytail into an animal is cool? No, it's not. What is cool is that we can achieve far more, in a far less outlandish and dream-like way, in a far less outlandish and dream-like place - our own home. We have to stop anaesthetising ourselves with this bullshit, and figure out our own responsibility, ability, and strength.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

There is no Spoon

For Jessie Brownlow - Reminding me why I plug in and how to unplug since 2011 (:

The Matrix has been a formative influence upon me since its release in 1999. It is alive with action, cinematographic genius, and my favourite literal, metaphorical, symbolic, and philosophical ‘coffin nail’ truths about the condition of the human race. Written by the Wachowskis, who later helped kick-start the Anonymous movement in their role as writers in V for Vendetta. Remember the Guy Fawkes masks?

Neither widely accepted nor publically expressed is my own view of philosophy underpinning The Matrix, which is that it provides allegory of our hyper-commercialist, media-disillusioned, impotent and world-destroying experience of reality, showcasing our ‘varying grotesqueries,’ in the words of the film’s The Architect, in all their disgusting glory.

The film had three glaring flaws which stand out like so many sore thumbs. First, the casting of Keanu Reeves as Neo. While he made what was to many a welcome change from Rambo-esque heroes, Reeves attracted increasing criticism as time, and the sequels, passed. George Ouzounian remarks:

‘(He should have been replaced) with a wooden plank with a mean face on it. The subtle point here is the mean face: without it, Reeves would be on par with a wooden plank, except a bit more rigid. He approaches every scene with the steadfast determination of a moron running into a wall.’

Second, the film’s overburdening with vague and condescending ramblings; a smorgasbord of philosophic hair clippings that I found insulting. It bores a hole through the introductory precepts of every paradigm of eastern thought and western philosophy – from causality to duality; Keanu’s backside to purpose; to ‘Christological Symbology,’ whatever that is; to destiny to choice to everything and nothing, all with the depth and dignity of two drunk college freshmen in a dorm room debating apartheid. That being said, the experience of Slavoj Zizek must also be considered:

‘When I saw The Matrix…I had the unique opportunity of sitting close to the ideal spectator of the film - namely, to an idiot. A man in the late 20ies (sic) at my right was so immersed in the film that he all the time disturbed other spectators with loud exclamations, like "My God, wow, so there is no reality!"... I definitely prefer such naive immersion to the…intellectualist readings which project into the film the refined philosophical…distinctions.’

It must be credited for its success in making such concepts accessible to the wider audience. The levels of meaning and communication alter ‘like a jewel in the light’ depending on the viewer. The third sore point about this film is the dialogue. It grows repetitive and annoying very quickly. George Ouzounian comments:

 ‘(It) is tacky, not unlike a pregnant woman in a bathing suit (unless you are turned on by that sort of thing, in which case you might find the dialogue strangely erotic.’ 

In my opinion the most important aspect of the films is Agent Smith. As he is set free from his role in the system, by the ‘saviour,’ Neo, ironically, he is thus unhinged from his purpose. The speech, found in appendix a, embodies his hatred of humanity. He delivers it to Morpheus in the first film, and when he is ‘set free’, becomes the only thing Smith takes with him. His first lesson to us is that he is the manifestation of both the system we exist within. The second is his embodiment of frustrated potential and stymied purpose. William Blake says “Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.” The third and penultimate lesson in Smith is that despite warnings blaring across all temporal, cultural, technological and spatial barriers, we are collectively rushing to our own demise. We may indeed be the plague, the virus, the cancer, of this planet, and so had better start taking responsibility and exploring this conundrum. Smith is at first an agent of the mind-enslaving system who hates the inhabitants and their propensity to consume and destroy everything. He eventually becomes the system itself, and finally becomes that which he hates, consuming and destroying everything. He is thus an almost literal representation of the current state of humankind within the system we inhabit, which are together becoming an insurmountable obstacle. The experience of such is the one positive condition for humanity.

We live in an existential, apathetic vacuum to The Matrix’s literal vacuum. Our survival as a species may depend on our ability to ‘resist’ our way out of our quagmire of apathetic disavowal, resist our urge to indulge in it. Reality is that which chooses to resist. We can and must resist, because the current system is a suicide machine, as Smith became in the end. 

Why are the too-human Oracle and the too-robotic Neo obsessed with choice? Because choice is the great determiner, of the utmost importance in this process. Choice, represented crudely by pills blue and red, is the beginning of the lucid understanding we require to define ourselves and our systems, and what they are becoming. We are at the proverbial fork in the road, the blue pill or the red. The stakes are as high as what Smith would have for us, and as low as something more bleak indeed than being enslaved and fed delusions of capitalist utopia by machines.

Smith’s burning hatred is the world-destroying fire of causality that will win in the end. The burning of the world is thus the consequence of these, our actions, with which we hurl ourselves like a bullet into the conflagration. It will happen eventually, and it is here that the parable of The Matrix makes an unforgivable omission – or commits its greatest sin. It champions choice and our own strength, combined with haunting reminders as to what will happen if we do not. But viewers are in the next moment robbed of the opportunity tomake choice or be strong, by pinning everything on Neo, and inexplicable hope and faith in him. That, in the words of Serenity’s Mal Reynolds, ‘is a long long wait for a train don’t come.’ It is up to us to save ourselves, from ourselves, before it is too late. Not Neo. There is no Saviour. Only causality. Only the pills and only Smith. At least the likes of Anonymous are stealing timid glances at these truths through the eye-slits of their Guy Fawkes masks. Why, oh why, don’t we even look at the pills?